'Goldstone Gaza claims will not reach war crimes court'
Former ICC official says U.S. likely to veto prosecution of Israeli officials, even if case reaches court.
The claims of alleged war crimes committed, according to the Goldstone report, during fighting in Gaza between Israel and Hamas in late 2008 and early 2009 will not reach the International Criminal Court at the Hague, a former ICC official told Haaretz on Sunday.
Legal attorney Nick Kaufman, who had served as a senior prosecutor at the ICC and a senior district attorney for the Jerusalem prosecution, said Israeli officials were likely safe from war crimes suits as the U.S. would probably veto such a move.
Until a month ago Kaufman, an expert on international law and rules of warfare, served as a senior lawyer in the Jerusalem prosecutor's office.
- Nick Kaufman, do you think you will represent an Israeli official, who has been charged with committing war crimes following the Goldstone report, at the international court?
Kaufman: "I don't believe so. I think the Goldstone report will receive a poor man's burial."
- You sound decisive.
" I don't understand how the United Nations Security Council has made a decision to transfer the case to the international criminal court at The Hague, because I think in any event, the United States will veto the decision."
"The UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon said he was satisfied with the investigation Israel has conducted, but the Arab League and other unidentified countries have insisted that a new investigation be conducted in the next 5 months. I don't see it going beyond this."
"On the other hand, I don't believe the senior prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, will yield to the Palestinians request and order an investigation against Israel: For him to accept the Palestinian request to recognize their court authority to try and judge the violations committed on their land, he would first have to recognize the Palestinian Authority as an independent country, and I cant see him making such an extreme decision. I just don't see it happening."
Where did you first meet Judge Richard Goldstone?
"Before he headed the inquiry committee, Goldstone was the recipient of a scholarship and he served for a few months at The Hague. When rumors spread about his appointment to the committee that will investigate the events in Gaza, I went to hear him speaking at the central library in Hague."
"I gave him a letter from Noam Shalit, in which he wrote that Gilad's captivity is against international law, and that t should be declared a war crime and a breach of the Geneva Convention. It also said that he should recommend that he be released when he is appointed head of the committee."
And what did he say?
"He got back to me several hours afterwards, and told me that he was touched by Gilad's story in a personal manner, and he understands the concern. Eventually, the report he wrote has a legal mistake regarding the conditions of Gilad's captivity."
Do you agree with the Israel's criticism against him?
"I think the personal criticism against him did him injustice. He might be naive, but I think that Goldstone is an Israel supporter. I don't think he estimated the extent of the personal hatred Israel expressed towards him."
"I think that the politician's slander of him during the committee and after it, damaged israel's image in the international community, as Israel did not understand what a respected legal personality Goldstone is. A man who served as the supreme prosecutor of two international courthouses knows something about violation of rules of warfare. Saying that he is stupid and knows nothing projects on us."
The argument is that he claimed sole mandate of a unilateral investigation.
"This is a basic mistake, which I know has frustrated Goldstone extremely. I met with him several months later, at a MacArthur foundation event where they were honoring him for his work in the international legal arena, and he came up to me and expressed deep frustration from the fact that Israel is not allowing him to enter Sderot to hear eyewitness testimonies, and also to enter Gaza from Israel."
"He was frustrated as he was the one who requested from the Human Rights Council in Geneva to extend the investigation to cover both the Palestinian and the Israeli actions in the Gaza War, and for some reason, even after the publication of the report Israel still criticized the report as being unilateral."
Did you hear him express any affinity to Israel or Judaism?
"I remember when Noam Shalit brought him Gilad's childhood book "when the shark and the fish first met," during their meeting last year, he didn't know how to read the book and opened it on the wring side. I remember thinking to myself, how come a Jew who prays every year at Yom Kippur doesn't know how to hold a book in Hebrew."
- You worked directly under the senior prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, who also has the authority to order an investigation against Israel following the Gaza war. What can you tell us about him?
Ocampo's position is not strong. He has been hit by strong criticism of his performance, as he has failed convict even one person in the international criminal court during his tenure. I estimate that his position is unstable, and he won't want to interfere with such a controversial subject.
If you think the Goldstone report will be buried, there is no point in erecting a committee to investigate the war crime allegations during the Gaza offensive.
"Because I don't see the affair reaching the International court, I also don't see a real - legal, political and international - reason to establish a committee. But at the same time, I think that there are ethical merits in establishing a committee for internal reasons, in which we can look at ourselves in light of the criticism the world and the report has voiced against us. I don't think we have a reason to fear the investigation."